The PKK, a non-state third-wave organization designated for its terrorist activities by the United States, the European Union and Turkey, has once again remodeled itself, a prominent organizational trend present within its history.
With arms in Syria, Iraq and Iran; the PKK aims to create independent communes whereby civil governance is present, and their grand strategy of fusing "the four regions of Kurdistan," this time with its new proxy "the Future Syria Party."
The eighth congress of the PKK has been a turning point in the organizations history, as the People's Protection Units (YPG)/Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Iraqi-based Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PCDK) and the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) were decided upon.
Throughout 2003 to 2010, the PKK made way to set up its arms within the Middle East. The YPG was initiated by the PKK, backing was given to it by other nations by providing the YPG with arms and ammunition, thus utilizing it as a proxy within Syria and Iraq. This thus caused destabilization within the region, with conflicts coming about.
Throughout its history, the PKK has shifted with different names, ideologies and motives; with the ultimate goal of fulfilling its modus operandi. The September 11 attacks could be seen as a breaking point for the PKK in this regard. By changing its name from the PKK to the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), the organization aimed to distance itself from its terrorist activities and seem more "democratic" and "legitimate." With this name change, the PKK also aimed for international support and recognition, trying to portray itself, not as a terrorist organization, but as a "representative" of the regional Kurdish population.
By using ethnic-centered narratives, the PKK once again remodeled and renamed itself, this time shifting from KADEK to Kongra-Gel. Rather than portraying itself as a group, the PKK with the Kongra-Gel symbolized itself as form of governance for its sympathizers in the Middle East.
Shifting from a party to a congress, the PKK paved way to the KCK; an umbrella organization connecting and coordinating the PKK and its arms. The KCK is also known to be the body of authority whereby decisions are made in regards to the PKK and all its arms. According to organizational sources, the PKK also made this switch to seem more "civil"oriented whereby Democracy Party (DEP) leader Zubeyr Aydar was chosen as the head of Kongra-Gel. In addition to this switch, the PKK needed to stray away from Leninist ideology, and appear more "democratic" for its communes to come.
With the organization officially switching to a model of Democratic Confederalism, sometimes referred to as communalism, by adaptation of Murray Bookchin's ideology the Kongra-Gel once again rebranded itself in 2005 within its ninth congress, naming itself as the PKK once again. The KCK as stated earlier was also set up within this congress, also officially bringing together the PKK and its arms under one single organizational structure. From 2010 onward, the YPG has been a key ally of the United States in Syria.
The PKK's doctrines
The changing and shifting of the PKK from name to name shows how terrorist organizations are fluid in both organizational structure and ideology. The PKK first being initiated with strict Marxist principles changed to accepting democratic confederalism, and trying to distance itself from its terrorist past to attract international support. The PKK does seem to be successful with its intention, as the organization has been backed by the U.S., Russia and other nations as well.
To legitimize its grand strategy of creating a "greater Kurdistan," the PKK once again remodeled, this time branding itself, this time as the "Future Syria Party" within Syria. In its founding congress, the Future Syria Party states "it will bring about a new system of governance encompassing all races and nationalities." To gain legitimacy in the eyes of its local constituency, symbols of the PKK including posters of its founding head Abdullah Ocalan were strictly prohibited. The aim of this new move by the PKK is forecast to be about wanting to be seen as more legitimate, to be shown as a representative of regional Kurds, and thus gain a seat in the peace processes, such as in Astana, as Turkey had not approved the PKK for joining the peace talks.The Future Syria Party in this sense could be used as a proxy to legitimize itself and "gain a part of the cake" in the division of Syria, and the creation of a terror corridor bordering Turkey.
It should also be noted that the Future Syria Party, before its founding congress, attended the PYD's seventh congress in 2017, creating suspicion of an organic tie between the two organizations.All in all, the PKK throughout its history has translated to different entities based on its changing modus operandi and ideology. The main aim of this change, as it could be seen through its own history, is to legitimize itself as an organization, and gain independence to form its own independently governed communes for a greater "Kurdish homeland." In this regard, the question arises – is the Future Syria Party legitimizing terrorism conducted by the PKK?
* Researcher at the IHH Social and Humanitarian Research Center